Summer Lee, progressive lawmaker, defeats “moderate” challenger backed by GOP megadonor Jeff Yass

Progressive “squad” member Summer Lee brushed aside a primary challenge from the right on Tuesday, winning over 60 percent of the vote in her Democratic contest despite facing a slew of attacks funded by GOP megadonor Jeff Yass.

Lee’s opponent, Pittsburgh-area council member Bhavini Patel, had criticized the incumbent for breaking with some of President Joe Biden’s public positions. Looming largest in this election was Lee’s support for a ceasefire in Gaza, where an Israeli military offensive has killed around 35,000 Palestinians so far. Patel repeatedly asserted that, on this issue, Lee was out of step with Biden and the rest of the party.

A group called “Moderate PAC” echoed Patel’s line of attack, intoning in one ad that residents of Pennsylvania’s 12th district need someone “who will work with Joe Biden.” The PAC dropped nearly $600,000 for such attacks, a majority of its funding coming from Yass, a billionaire supporter of former President Donald Trump.

Yass has poured his money not only in Trump’s campaign coffers but also in various conservative policy initiatives and organizations. His wealth has positioned him in GOP circles of influence, which he might have used to persuade Trump to reverse course on a potential ban on TikTok; Yass is an investor in TikTok’s parent company.

Patel previously told Salon that she had herself criticized Yass, despite his support for her primary challenge. During her campaign, she too knocked Lee for being insufficiently pro-Biden (Biden himself mentioned Lee favorably during a recent campaign swing through western Pennsylvania).

Yass’ attempt to knock out a progressive incumbent was thwarted by a robust campaign from Lee, a coalition of political groups that countered Moderate PAC with their own heavy spending, and a string of endorsements from Democratic elected officials, including both U.S. senators from Pennsylvania. Lee’s opponents also dearly missed the support of groups like AIPAC, which signaled interest in the race early in the cycle but ultimately chose not to engage after earlier failing to prevent Lee’s first election in 2022.


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